Back to All Data

Exploring the geography of prosperity

February 28, 2019 Employment & Wages, Healthy Economy

We construct a composite measure of several different indicators to determine a county’s economic vitality. Employing a statistical technique called “confirmatory factor analysis,” we create an index that summarizes the common variation of several measures of economic activity and well-being. The indicators and their relative weights in the formation of the index are as follows:

  • Median household income (45 percent)
  • Poverty rate (24 percent)
  • Life expectancy (13 percent)
  • Prime-age employment-to-population ratio (9 percent)
  • Housing vacancy rate (5 percent)
  • Unemployment rate (4 percent)

Counties with a Vitality Index above zero (shown in blue) are doing better than the (population-weighted) average county, and those with a vitality score below zero (shown in yellow) are doing worse. The map also depicts relative population by representing populous areas in darker colors and sparsely populated areas with lighter colors.

How to use this interactive

  1. Start by either searching for a state or county in the search bar or selecting a state on the map to zoom to the county level.
  2. From the state level, hover over counties to see their vitality scores. Select a county to see its vitality score and the components of the score (e.g., median household income) in the accompanying table.
  3. At the county level, to return to the state level, select the “Back to state level” button. To return to the national map, select the “Reset map” button.

NOTE: Data come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2013–17; Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 2014; and authors’ calculations. For more economic analysis related to the index, see the Hamilton Project paper, The Geography of Prosperity. For more information on methodology, see the technical appendix for the related framing chapter.

Data analysis by Jana Parsons. Interactive design and development by Becca Portman.